As part of the SACMEQ project, teachers in 15 African countries were asked about how much training they had received. They were asked both how much training they received before they started teaching, and whether they had received in-service training in the past three years.
Across the 15 countries, just half had completed three or more years of pre-service training. In four countries, fewer than 20% had. Across the 15 countries, only 55% of teachers had completed any in-service teacher training in the past three years.
The bigger problem is that it did not matter. Except in two countries, students with teachers who had received more training performed no better than those with less training. Even where there was an effect the effect was very small.
This is consistent with research findings on low-cost private schools, which frequently demonstrate that the private schools achieve better results despite employing teachers who have less formal training.
In the vast majority of cases therefore, teacher training seems to make very little difference to student outcomes, even when delivered in high doses (years not months of training).
A few school systems and interventions suggest however that when teacher training is done right, it can have a powerful effect on learning. BRAC, Gyan Shala, the Balsakhi program, the Jehanabad Reading Project, School for Life, and a range of other interventions which have had a proven impact on learning all have teacher training at their core.
So what do they do differently?
First, they train teachers in short but extremely frequent training session. Pre-service training is limited to a few weeks, but is followed by weekly or, at a minimum, monthly training and coaching sessions to help teachers develop their knowledge and skills.
Second, it focuses on content and how to teach it. At BRAC, Gyan Shala, School for Life and others, monthly training sessions are used to help teachers understand the content they are just about to teach and how to teach it.
Third, it includes lots of coaching and support in the classroom, so that teachers have opportunities to practice with guidance.
Finally, it is tightly linked to detailed written materials that help teachers understand how to teach each lesson.
Analysis based on SACMEQ Data.
Ahmad, A. and Haque, I., A Study of BRAC Interventions and Mainstream Schools, 2011.
Banerjee, A. et al., Improving the Quality of Education in India: Evidence from Three Randomized Experiments, 2003.
Caseely-Hayford, L. and Ghartey, A., The Leap to Literacy and Life Change in Northern Ghana, 2007.
CFBT, The Gyan Shala Program: An Assessment, 2010.
Hartwell, A., Meeting EFA: Ghana School for Life, 2006.
Hungi, N., Accounting for Variations in the Quality of Primary School Education, 2011.
Kremer, M., Brannen, C. and Glennerster, R., “The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World” in Science, 2013.
Muralidharan, K. and Sundararaman, V., The Aggregate Effect of School Choice: Evidence from a Two-Stage Experiment in India, 2013.
Michaelowa, M. and Wechtler, A., The Cost-Effectiveness of Inputs in Primary Education: Insights from the Literature and Recent Student Surveys for Sub-Saharan Africa, 2006.
Sweetser, A., Lessons from the BRAC Non-Formal Primary Education Program, 1999.